Our Digital World & Gender Diversity

Image by Ajay kumar Singh from Pixabay

To say that gender diversity is a hot, highly political topic today would be an understatement. Gender diversity however, has existed in many human cultures for many thousands of years. And it’s not going to go away and in fact, is likely to become increasingly explored. And our digital world has a lot to do with that, as well as functional and motivational changes in our societies globally, which will be fostered through digital spaces such as the idea of the metaverse and social media. This is good for humanity.

While it may seem that gender diversity is a new issue in today’s society, it is not. It is more visible today for a few reasons. In the digital world, through platforms like social media, gender diversity has found a place for expression. And it has exposed people who were always gender diverse to others who feel the same way. They’ve been able to connect and discuss their feelings and true sense of identity through digital channels. In the more public sphere of these digital channels, such as open Twitter or Reddit channels that are public, they’ve also faced extreme hatred and public shaming. Yet they’ve persevered. And in the end, gender diversity will become much more normalized and over time, broadly accepted. For those who oppose gender diversity, they will stay as they are today, the minority and their current loudness will become, over time, a whimper.

Opposition to gender diversity is in part, due to systemic sociocultural pressures. Especially in Western cultures. Some forms of Christianity, as I explore below, have played a role. This too, however, is changing, in bad ways, but also in more good ways.

In fact, because of the internet and social media, and ideas of the “metaverse” which may or may not actually come into existence, we can expect even more explorations and versions of gender identity.

Let’s go back in time a little bit to understand how our digital world will play a role in gender diversity in the future and what we might expect as a result.

Native Americans had diverse genders as part of their society for thousands of years, as did other cultures. With Native Americans, they called it, and still do, Two Spirited. It was an aspect of their society that Western Europeans sought to squash as aggressively as they could. It sort of worked, but really didn’t. The term Two Spirit is complex as well. It wasn’t always called Two Spirit. That term came more into meaning in 1989 from the adoption of the term of the Ojibwe from Manitoba in Canada. Many tribes had their own terms as diverse as their societies.The Navajo had the term Nádleehí meaning “one who is transformed”, while the Lakota used the term Winkté which meant the compulsion of a male to behave as a female. Similar concepts can be found throughout the world. Here’s a great gender diversity history map. Many Native American cultures had upwards of five different views of gender. All were accepted.

Opposition to gender diversity is today largely the domain of Christianity and then predominantly Evangelicals, who often misquote the bible as saying it is opposed to gender diversity, homosexuality. It is not. Here’s an article debunking that myth and many scholars have also debunked that myth.

So what role does and will, our digital world and cultures play in the future of gender diversity? It’s hard to quantify or even truly qualify until there are more in-depth studies carried out by cultural anthropologists and sociologists. I’ve applied my knowledge of cultural anthropology as a digital anthropologist studying digital culture for well over a decade for marketing and non-commercial applications. What am I seeing?

Social media is playing a key role in driving greater public awareness of gender diversity and educating the public. Yes, there are opponents, but the reality is, they are much smaller groups than the majority of society. Social media tools have also played a role by enabling the formation of private groups that can be safe places online for gender diverse humans and their allies. Gaming platforms, especially MMOGs like Fortnight and World of Warcraft are enabling gender diverse people to find ways of expression that help them live more open lives in the real world. Online support and discussion groups play a vital role in shaping public perceptions today and encouraging those afraid of being publicly open to be more public.

It is likely that these channels will play a key role in the future in building a more inclusive society. It won’t happen overnight and for a while yet, it will be rocky and challenging. But in the long run, gender diversity, especially in traditionally conservative Western European cultures will become the norm.

People who are gender diverse and seeking that recognition enshrined in human rights law are today where homosexuality in the public sphere was in the 1980s. As sociocultural systems come under pressure, as they are today, the functional opportunity for change becomes apparent. Because human rights issues are evolving, gender diverse people feel motivated to make change.

A positive indicator that change in favour of gender diversity is underway was the U.S. Senate voting to codify into law same sex marriage with all Democrats and a majority of Republicans. Congress also has to do this of course, but it it shows how much opinion has changed even in an America that seems to have become more divided on the role of religion in society.

Gender diversity is a fact of human nature. It has always existed, across many cultures and societies. It makes for a much richer world and benefits human adaptation and survival. Gender diversity is simply part of our evolutionary process.

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Giles Crouch | Digital Anthropologist

Giles Crouch | Digital Anthropologist

Digital / Cultural Anthropologist | Featured in Wired, National Geographic & Forbes | Celt | Explorer | Intensely Curious